Three reasons why Hamilton's run to a sixth world title won't be a procession

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Three races into the new season and already Lewis Hamilton has clinched two wins.

The Briton is hunting a sixth world title this year, which would take him just one behind the legendary Michael Schumacher.

After securing a fifth world crown with ease last season, the Stevenage man has enjoyed a strong start to the year and still only looks like he is operating in second gear.

In Bahrain, he took a lucky victory after engine trouble in the dying stages denied Charles Leclerc a first F1 win, and last weekend in China, he delivered a crushing triumph after beating team-mate Valtteri Bottas with a quicker start.

Although it’s still early days in the championship, here’s our three reasons why Hamilton’s charge to a sixth world championship won’t be a procession.

Bottas 2.0

Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate has proven he is refusing to play a bit part in the title fight by sealing a win in Australia and securing podiums in Bahrain and China.

Fastest all weekend in Shanghai, the Finn secured pole, but had a poor start and had to settle for second behind the Briton.

Still, the 29-year-old has looked a different driver to the one that struggled for large parts of the 2018 season and could really have a crucial say in this year’s championship.

Out of contract in December, the former Williams man has nothing to lose. He just needs to go out and push hard in every race, getting the best out of his vast potential.

With development driver Esteban Ocon in the paddock and probably set to replace him at the season’s end, a few wins and a consistent run of podiums is still not going to guarantee him an extension for another two years.

But a strong campaign, with more bite on race weekends, could put Hamilton under pressure and stretch the title race until the depths of the year.

Ferrari yet to show full hand?

Pre-season testing suggested that Ferrari had the quicker car, but that has not translated into victories over the first three races.

In Bahrain, Leclerc was on the cusp of clinching a maiden victory but an engine problem with nine laps remaining saw him drop down to third.

Still, after showing their speed in the Gulf, they struggled in China with Vettel finishing third and Leclerc in fifth.

The straight-line speed of the car is impressive and can really threaten Hamilton and the Mercedes, but it’s slowness on the corners seems to be affecting their competitiveness.

Having been more than a decade since the Italian marque tasted world championship success, with Kimi Raikkonen back in 2007, the pressure for the Prancing Horse to perform has never been higher.

The Scuderia have some work to do, with some internal issues like the aerodynamic window, but it would be harsh to count them out this early, especially with 18 races remaining.

Watch this space.

Verstappen to improve as season progresses

Max Verstappen has been touted as a future world champion for three years now, and could really challenge Hamilton at the top of the standings if Red Bull can improve the car as the season develops.

After splitting with French manufacturer Renault, Red Bull looked to have made significant strides with the new Honda engine during pre-season testing.

Verstappen wants to race at the front, but even with the positive developments in the off-season, more work needs to be done to get to know the engine better and this takes time.

It’ll be a work in progress for the Red Bull. But strategy wise, they have certainly looked sharp in both Bahrain and China.

In the three races so far, Verstappen has finished third, fourth and fourth – and has been miles ahead of team-mate Pierre Gasly.

If Christian Horner and his team can deliver as the season progresses, the aggressive and confident 21-year-old should be in the mix to secure podiums in most races.

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